Fresh Life

Textile sculptor Bryony Rose Jennings finds sparks of life in fabric scraps and found objects

Old fabrics hold a special charm for Bryony Rose Jennings. She has been collecting them since she was a young girl, picking them up at car-boot sales with her father, at vintage clothing shops, on eBay, from family and friends.

Jennings has also always been drawn to animals. She says she finds them easier to relate to than humans. The inevitable marriage of her twain loves has brought forth a menagerie of delightfully colorful, handmade creatures — some real, some imagined — made entirely from reclaimed and/or repurposed fabric.

“When I use fabric of a bygone era that bears the marks of use and purpose or that invokes an idea of time and place, I feel a deep connection to it, and I think that shows in the creatures I come to create with it,” says the Portsmouth, England-based textile sculptor.

A silversmith and jewelry designer by training, Jennings calls her process “building with fabric,” much like modelling with clay. She first makes basic stuffed shapes for different parts of the body using polyester stuffing made from recycled bottles, then uses stitches to “sculpt them into more fluid forms.” For larger pieces she uses basic wire armature for structural support. Finally comes the layering on of the fabric scraps, each piece chosen for its texture, color, and pattern — fraying pieces for the dog’s fuzzy ears, tulle for that fluffy effect on an owl’s face, old lace for the fairy mouse’s wings — all carefully sewn on. Found objects like buttons and beads stand in for eyes. Sometimes, if she’s going for a more realistic look, she might source them from a taxidermy supplier.

Learn more about the artist at

The sculptures, which range from small mice and rabbits to larger predators like foxes and wolves, are inspired by folktales and fables, but are informed as much by the materials Jennings has at hand. The life-size Ulfred, for instance, was inspired by a pewter-colored, beaded table runner she had bought at a sale. “I had been wanting to make a wolf for ages,” she says, “but it was finding the perfect piece of fabric that gave me the push to create him.”

Jennings doesn’t normally use any patterns for her creations. “I’m not looking for realism,” she says. “My work seeks a feeling of life and soul.” So, she starts with the idea of an animal and watches it come into being as she sews. “There is a turning point with each sculpture I make, a moment when the personality appears and begins to direct its own evolution. It feels a bit like magic.”

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